The Basking Spot: Repashy Diets

The Basking Spot

By Jennifer Greene

This month, the Basking Spot is on Repashy Diets!

The Repashy Diets are a line of meal replacement powders as well as vitamin supplements.  Since the subject of supplementation is such a complicated topic in and of itself, this article will not be covering the various vitamin and calcium supplements manufactured by Repashy.  For details on what is in the various supplements, as well as their benefits, feel free to visit the Repashy website and read his various articles detailing them.   Instead, this article will cover the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the Day Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the various gel foods, and the SuperPig color enhancer.

First and foremost, any one that keeps Crested Geckos should already be familiar with the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, often shortened as simply “MRP”.  This food is the most commonly recommended diet for any captive Rhacodactylus species, simply due to how complete it is as a diet.  When Rhacodactylus species such as Crested Geckos were originally kept in captivity, the diets offered to them were traditionally centered around various combinations of supplements and baby food.  The Repashy MRP diet eliminates the need to mix up your own food, and instead rely on the expertise of someone who has maintained and bred and extensive colony of geckos.  The Day Gecko specific MRP is a diet designed along similar lines, but with the specific needs of Phelsuma species in mind.  The use of these diets makes care of the geckos much simpler – very much along the lines of maintaining a dog or cat, in that you simply prepare the commercial diet rather than seeking out various live food items.  It is recommended to include live prey items in your geckos’ diet, but it is possible to maintain Crested Geckos entirely on the Repashy MRP diet alone.

Repashy SuperPig

For those keepers looking to enhance their prize geckos (and other reptiles) in any way possible, I suggest considering the addition of the SuperPig supplement to their diet.  SuperPig is a carotenoid supplement that enhances the red and orange coloration of your reptiles.  The combination of a broad range of carotenoids is in a powdered form, making it a piece of cake to simply add to your calcium mix or to simply mix into your MRP or other diet.  While the effects of the SuperPig may not be immediately apparent (one feeding won’t turn your gecko bright red), over time you will notice your animals exhibiting more red than they did before.  SuperPig is not a magical pigment creator, so if your animal is not slightly red to begin with, it will not put red pigment in.  However, it can enhance the red coloration in Bearded Dragons, Blue Tongue Skinks, Red Tegus, Red Iguanas, Gargoyle Geckos, Crested Geckos, and to a lesser extent, even Leopard Geckos.  Why do I list these specific animals, you ask? Because all of those are species I personally have used (or coworkers have used) the SuperPig with to enhance red coloration, and personally seen the effects of SuperPig before and after.

Red Tegu

This employee’s tegu gets superpig mixed into his diet –

all his white spots have been washed out with red!

A note with SuperPig – it is not going to affect the coloration of the offspring of animals fed SuperPig.  This means that if your Crested Geckos are extra red as a result of SuperPig, their babies are unlikely to retain that same intense red coloration, and will instead look more like your geckos did before they received the supplement.  In addition, once the SuperPig is no longer added to the diet, the effects wear off.  Simply feeding SuperPig to your animals for a few months, and then quitting, will not maintain the red coloration for the duration of your animal’s life.

In addition to Meal Replacement Powders, which create a thick, mushy type of food, there is a new line of gel-diets that can be mixed up.  Bug Burger is the specific diet designed as a gutload for feeder insects, and due to the quantity of gutload that can be made for the cost of a 5.3 oz container, it is one of the most cost effective gutloads out there.  Bug Burger is readily consumed by all kinds of feeder insects, and I personally have used it to feed Superworms, Mealworms, Crickets, Hissing Cockroaches, Dubia Roaches, and once even mice!  It is easy to mix, simply combining it in a 1 to 3 ratio with water, and then heating up to boiling.  Let it cool, and viola!  Instant bug food.

Mixing Repashy Diets

Along the same lines as the Bug Burger are several fish and reptile diets.  The reptile specific diets seem well designed to appeal to their group – they are still extremely new to the market, but every animal I have tried the food with has loved it.  The Meat Pie designed for carnivorous reptiles is not always immediately accepted by reptiles accustomed to eating live prey items, however if your reptiles already eat food from tongs or out of a bowl, the transition is easy.   Savory Stew is the name of the food designed for omnivorous reptiles, and so far I have not been able to find a single omnivorous species that did not readily accept the food just when offered simply on a plate.  I’ve seen Berber’s Skinks, Blue Tongue Skinks, Argentine Black and White Tegus, Red Tegus, Russian Legless Lizards, and even Bearded Dragons cheerfully consuming the Savory Stew!

stew cooling

When placed in the fridge, the Savory Stew turns from liquid to a nice solid gel in a matter of minutes.

With the range of vitamins and other nutrients found in the Repashy diets, they are an excellent choice to consider incorporating into your feeding routine.  As a big fan of variety in the captive diet of reptiles, I would not personally recommend feeding nothing but a commercial diet to your reptiles, but the Repashy line of diets is a high quality food that you can feel comfortable adding to your pets’ diets.  The only draw back?  The gel diets (Bug Burger, Savory Stew, and Meat Pie) all have a distinct odor to them when being prepared.

Keep in mind that the food is not designed to appeal to YOU, it is designed to appeal to your reptiles, many of which cheerfully consume food items such as live insects, dead insects, raw liver and eggs, and other such unsavory food items.  What they find appetizing and what we find appetizing are not nearly the same things – so don’t let the smell put you off, go ahead and offer it to your animals anyway.  They’ll probably LOVE it!

10 Questions with Allen Repashy

Allen Repashy

By Scott Wesley

Allen Repashy is an author, breeder and owner of Repashy Superfoods. Superfoods are revolutionizing the way we feed not only many species of reptiles – but fish too!

1. What specific reptile got you hooked on the hobby, and is it still something you work with or breed today?

In the beginning, it was all about what I could catch in the canyon on the way home between my grade school and my house. My favorite was definitely our Coastal Horned Lizard. As far as exotics, the lizard that started it all for me was the Frilled Dragon. I was lucky enough to be the first person in North America to breed them in captivity in the late 80’s… I can’t say that I am still keeping them. The thing I enjoy most is working with species that have been challenging to keep. I enjoy “figuring out” difficult species and the challenge to reproduce them….. then moving on to something new.

2. I have heard that you are a Brazilian Jujitsu expert. Did you ever have aspirations for a career in the UFC back in the day and do you have a favorite UFC fighter today?

For me, BJJ was something I discovered when I was watching the very first UFC fight on PPV. I thought it was amazing that a guy my size (Royce Gracie) could take on all comers and defeat most of them without even throwing a punch. That was 1993. It took me ten more years to actually get in a gym and start myself at the age of 40. I don’t like getting punched in the face, so I doubt I would have has aspirations of a career in the UFC. LOL. I do have the privilege of getting to train with guys at our gym, who DO have careers in the UFC, and being able to contribute to the careers of these guys through grappling, or just being a life coach, is quite rewarding in itself. It keeps me feeling young, which is my main goal these days.

3. What gave you the idea to feed people to fish?  (aka the Repashy Soilent Green diet…).  I mean – it is people, right?  Can you also explain what this diet actually is, and why it is so cool?

Yeah, I do like to get people’s attention and have a bit of fun with my formula names. “Soilent Green” is a product in my new line of fish foods…. I actually kept and bred fish before reptiles, and now I have come full circle, and regained my passion for fish again. What’s unique about this formula is that it forms a gel that can be fed in blocks, or poured over various surfaces like rock or wood, to provide a natural grazing surface for species that naturally pick rocks or scrape for algae. There are a couple great videos o youtube that give a better idea.

4. What are some of the cooler animals you are working with / breeding right now?

For the last 10 years or more, I have been exclusively focusing on Rhacodactylus. My second passion has been the development of the Superfoods range. My keeping goals right now, are not focused so much on breeding, but developing and testing diets. I have a whole range of  Gel Based Reptile diets that I am currently testing. The first two products in the range (Meat Pie and Savory Stew) have been released, but I have some great things on the way for Omnivores and Herbivores. I am working with various species of Skinks, Tortoises, and even Uromastyx and dwarf Monitors right now. I am raising specimens exclusively on these new formulas and plan to breed them over multiple generations to prove the concept of the products.

5. Your gecko diet is certainly your most popular product. What are some of the benefits in the recent changes made to it, and what gave you the idea in the first place to develop an all in one diet for Rhacodactylus and other species?

The development of the diet came out of my desire to reduce, or eliminate the need for insects in my growing breeding colony of Rhacodactlus. I am allergic to Crickets, so that was my first thought, but then I realized that it would reduce costs, maintenance, increase sanitation, and allow the geckos to be marketed to consumers who didn’t want to buy crickets. The thought of selling the foods, was never even in the back of my mind until years later. My first thoughts about marketing the food, was that it would help sell the geckos….. now, 15 years later, my thinking has evolved from sell a gecko and make 25 bucks, to.. give the gecko away, because it will eat food for 25 years!

6. You come up with some ridiculous and funny names for your products (SuperPig, Soilent Green, SuperFly, etc). Is there a method to your madness?

I have always had a quite twisted sense of humor and enjoy plays on words. I use these crazy names, simply because I can! This is my company, and I am having fun with it. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I believe that if you come up with a funny name, that people will not easily forget it, and if it is funny enough, they will tell their friends about it……. I want a name that will easily pop into someone’s head when they decide to go shopping.

7. You work closely with Philippe deVosjoli working with some very cool reptiles, amphibians, crabs, crayfish and others. How did this partnership come about?

Bob Mailloux, who I was partners with for many years in Sandfire Dragon Ranch, introduced me to Philippe. I was already familiar with his books and of course the awesome Vivarium magazine he was publishing back then. He was, and always will be, the Godfather of modern herpetology He has been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and our friendship has become an inseparable bond.  The fact that we has such similar interests, eventually brought us together in business.

8. If you had to choose a completely different career – what would you be doing?

My second passion to reptiles, is plants. I actually have a plant tissue culture lab where we clone and propagate rare succulents. It could be a real business if I had the time for it, and maybe sometimes I will. I always wanted to breed tropical fish, but that isn’t a very far reach from reptiles. To be honest, I am totally excited about the food and supplement business because there is so much room for improvement and the introduction of new specialized products. It really is rewarding to be able to contribute to improved long term success with rare species.

9. How is your Baja racing career working out for you?

Haven’t raced in the Desert for quite a few years now, it just got too expensive, and takes huge timecommitment. Last month, I did go down to Baja and pre-ran the Baja 500 course the week before the race. The course gets marked weeks before the race so you can drive it and take notes before the race. We decided to just split it into a three day adventure and it was a blast.

Last year, I bought a Polaris RZR, which keeps me having fun in the desert on a low budget.  A few friends and I who also have RZR’s are planning on pre-running the upcoming Baja 1000 course all the way to La Paz at the end of the year.

10. If you could choose one thing to change about the reptile hobby – what would that be and why?

Coming from the point of view of someone who has been active for 30 years in the hobby, I would have to say that the diversity of interest in the hobby has gone to nearly zero. The hobby was a whole lot more interesting in my opinion, when people were excited about keeping a lot of different species, and not about keeping a bunch of different morphs of the same species. If you go to a reptile expo now days and take out the ball pythons, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and even crested geckos, the place will be almost empty.

There are so many interesting species that are no longer available because someone decided to “invest” in a ball python or a leopard gecko instead. Back in the day, making money with your collection was a secondary goal to just keeping, learning, and enjoying it. Now days, I think the majority of people who seriously get involved in the hobby, are looking at it business venture. Exports are closing down left and right, and if we don’t breed more species, there won’t be a hobby left at all, just commercial breeders and a short list of species.

Our biggest threat to the hobby is the loss of species diversity, and of course, the threat to be regulated out of existence by all the new legislation.

Crested Geckos: Enriching the Captive Environment

Crested Geckos

By Jennifer Greene

There are a myriad of care sheets out there today on exactly how to raise, breed, and maintain Crested Geckos.   The majority of these care sheets are quite basic, and focus on the simplest method possible of maintaining your geckos and simply keeping them alive.  While these care sheets are the best way to get started in caring for your new gecko pet, they do sadly lack in options for those who want to go above and beyond simply keeping their gecko alive.  What about the person who wants to set up their geckos in a more naturalistic way, or wants to offer their gecko more than just a powdered diet?  Many folks get trapped in a simplistic set up and maintaining their geckos with the bare minimum, which works if you have large numbers of them or want their care to be as simple and streamlined as possible.  But what about the person with a pet or two, who wants to do more than just have a gecko in a box? This article should help you find ways to enrich the captive environment for your Crested Gecko, in addition to any of your other Rhacodactylus species – Leachies, Gargoyle geckos, any of those types of geckos.

crested gecko in setup

The first place to start with cage enrichment is to simply increase the size of your gecko’s cage.  Many keepers start off in a fairly small cage, especially for baby geckos, which is adequate.  It is often much simpler to maintain babies in a small cage, but this same attitude does not necessarily apply to adults.  A couple of adult crested geckos can live in a 20 gallon tall tank, which is 24” wide by 20” tall, and 12” deep.  However, to really get the most out of them, try keeping them in some of the larger naturdal terrariums – the 36”x18”x18” for example, up to the 36” x 18” x 36” cage.  These larger sizes allow you many more options in cage décor, lighting, and microclimates within the cage.

crested gecko terrarium

A larger cage offers the space Crested Geckos will use to leap from perch to perch, such as from the branches of a small ficus tree or from cork pieces.  In a truly large enclosure, you can plant a couple of small ficus trees and then along the back of the cage, prop up some cork flats and/or cork hollows.  Crested Geckos love to sleep in cork hollows, and you will likely find that yours pick the same cork hollow or flat piece to sleep in day after day.  Try not to add too much décor to your cage, though.  It’s important to keep large gaps between branches and vines so that your geckos have space to jump.  To see for yourself how much your geckos love jumping, flip the lights back on after you’ve had them off for half an hour or so.  Your geckos will be out and active, and you’ll likely even hear the distinct “Thonk!  Thonk!” of them landing on the sides of the cage.

If you have a hard time affording the large glass aquaria that are ideal for setting up a more naturalistic looking cage, consider using a large mesh cage a few days a week.  You can get a fairly large mesh Reptarium for a fraction of the cost of a similar sized glass aquarium, but Reptariums are lightweight, easy to set up, and easy to dissemble if need be.  The perk of a Reptarium over/in addition to a glass cage is that during suitable weather, you can put your Crested Geckos outside.  Do not put them outdoors in direct sunlight, or in temperatures below 65 or above 85.  However, within that range, some exposure to natural sunlight is an excellent way to bolster your usual care regimen for your gecko.  It is true that as nocturnal animals, Crested Geckos do not get much exposure to direct sunlight and high levels of UVB the way a desert animal such as a Bearded Dragon would.  However, mild amounts of UVB still penetrate into shaded areas, so wild geckos would still receive small amounts of UVB, making it something to consider including in the captive environment (although geckos can and will survive without UVB if supplemented correctly).  Keep in mind that UVB does not penetrate easily through glass or window screens, so while keeping your gecko’s cage next to a window may brighten the cage up, it will not receive the same beneficial UVB as it would if it were outdoors.

crested on reptarium

If keeping your gecko outdoors is not an option (your climate is too cold or too hot for too much of the year), consider lighting as another way to enrich your gecko’s captive life.  Use of a 5.0 UVB bulb on cages 12” or taller is an excellent way to provide the kind of moderate UVB that is all your gecko needs.  If your home’s ambient temperature is 75 degrees or cooler, you can also use a small basking or daylight bulb to create a small heat gradient within the cage.   In a large cage, you can place several cork hollows under the heat light, and offer your geckos the option to sleep in the warmer end of the cage or the cooler end.  You’d be surprised at how often your gecko will seek out warmer temperatures, perhaps not basking outright like a diurnal lizard would, but sleeping directly under or behind the exposed basking spot.  The option to seek out warmer temperatures also makes it easier for your gecko to digest meals, making it an option to feed a wider range of prey items.

crested baskingWhile they don’t often bask, every so often your geckos will actively seek out the warmer temps you provide for them!

Many caresheets recommend feeding exclusively the Repashy Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, or MRP for short.  While the MRP has been designed as an exclusive diet, it can be beneficial for your gecko to have food items other than that.  Live insects such as crickets are relished, especially by younger geckos.  Insect prey items should be lightly coated in a calcium powder containing D3 (for geckos housed exclusively indoors), or in a plain calcium powder for those that get regular and prolonged exposure to natural sunlight.  If you have large adult Crested Geckos, consider offering regular sized to giant sized mealworms once a month.  Not all geckos will consume mealworms, but offering them once in a while to add variety to your gecko’s diet is not a bad thing.

In addition to live insects, you can also mix canned insects into your gecko MRP.  ZooMed Canned Caterpillars are often relished, especially by Gargoyle Geckos, and if you don’t want to try live crickets then canned ones are an option instead!  Just mix in a few with your MRP and wait to see them eat them.  Your geckos may not immediately eat the canned insects, and if that’s the case, try skipping a meal or two before offering the canned insects again.  If your gecko is healthy, just skipping a meal won’t hurt it at all – but it will sharpen its appetite, making it much more willing to try new foods.  One more thing to add to the MRP for variety is fruit.  You can use the ZooMed canned fruit Mixins, especially if it is hard to find nice, mushy tropical fruit in your area, or you can use overripe fresh fruit.  You don’t need a ton of fruit, just a little bit, but the extra sweetness is relished by the geckos.  Try different fruits until you find what your gecko enjoys the most!

gecko food mix

A word of caution on adding fresh fruit to your gecko’s diet: don’t put in too much!  For example, when adding it to the mix I prepare for my geckos, I use only roughly one teaspoon per 2 or 3 spoonfuls of MRP.  In addition, this is only done every other time I offer the MRP – this is to ensure that my geckos get the nutrients in their MRP without getting picky and eating only the fresh fruit.   Variety is great, and it is good to spoil your geckos with fresh food, just keep in mind that the MRP does contain all the vitamins and minerals your gecko needs.  Make sure that your gecko gets MRP at least every other feeding to ensure a balance of appropriate vitamins.

In closing, keep in mind that it’s important to match your enrichment options to your situation, and to use a bit of common sense when deciding what to try.  A large cage with nothing in it is not any better than a smaller cage that’s adequately furnished, and if it’s too cold or too hot outside you will not be benefiting your gecko by putting them outside.  Experiment with changes to the diet gradually, and don’t be discouraged if it takes a couple of tries before your geckos start to regularly eat canned insects.  Crested Geckos operate at cooler temperatures than many other species of pet reptiles, so their appetites and activity levels are lower than what you may expect.  Give them time, and try one thing at a time!  With the addition of a few enrichment options, your gecko will likely become more robust, colorful, and active.  Female geckos that are laying eggs should maintain a better weight and bounce back more quickly after each clutch, improving their overall and long term health.   There’s nothing to lose by enriching your gecko’s captive environment, and only health to gain!